All salt originates from the sea and has a mineral profile similar to that of our blood. In nature sea salt contains an abundance of minerals, the same proportion as found in our blood and these minerals help form vitamins, enzymes and proteins.
‘Salt is born of the purest parents; the sun and the sea’ Pythagoras
Sodium is the most vital element for life, an essential electrolyte mineral necessary for conducting nerve impulses to enabling muscle contractions and maintaining water balance in our body tissues. Symptoms of sodium deficiency can included cramps, heart palpitations and muscle fatigue.
Salt is evaporated sea water. It can be found as salt lakes, dried ocean beds or mined from the earth. The whiter the salt, the more processed and refined.
The jury is still out on exactly how much table salt is necessary but The World Health Authority recommend about 5g/day for adults – which is just under a teaspoon – which is 2g sodium.
Different types of salt
- Table salt is 40% sodium and 60% chloride. Most table salt is highly refined, bleached and devoid of minerals. Too much causes an imbalance at a cellular level and can kill our taste buds, which is why salt gets such bad press.
- Whole natural sea salt is slightly grey and contains minerals and trace elements and is harvested by evaporating ocean water.
- Himalayan salt is from salt mines in Pakistan, contains minerals, although very little calcium and magnesium, trace elements are abundant and it gets it pink colour from iron oxide.
- Traditional Celtic sea salt is from France, also contains minerals and trace elements and is harvested from the sea and salt marshes in Brittany.
Your salt status controls your calcium and magnesium levels
Without salt in our diet, the body compensates by pulling sodium from our bones along with calcium and magnesium. In doing so our body reduces sodium in our sweat and excretes magnesium and calcium instead.
Sodium and Potassium have a special relationship
These essential nutrients must be in balance! They help our kidneys work properly, balance fluid and support energy production. They both have opposite effects in the body. Molecular pumps pull potassium into our cells and push sodium out, this generates electrical activity to help nerves and muscles function properly.
Sodium is the main transport system across cells, that line our digestive system, into our blood. Sodium even helps glucose into the cell, affecting our energy levels.
Basically, water follows sodium, if you have too much salt, your body retains water & potassium balances this out.
Our bodies require more potassium than sodium. Virtually all whole unprocessed plant and animal foods contain more potassium than sodium; meats have seven times more potassium, fruits vegetables and grains have several hundred times more potassium. Alcohol, coffee and refined sugar contain little potassium and deplete our body’s own stores. Processing flour removes a whopping 75% of the potassium! So you can see why diets high in potassium are associated with improved blood pressure control.
What can lead to high blood pressure?
- Excess sodium is flushed out by our kidneys into the urine, unfortunately this also removes potassium so the body will attempt to hoard potassium. If levels get too low in the process, then the body keeps hold of sodium. Since water follows sodium, the amount of water in the body increases, causing the volume of circulating blood to increase, blood pressure increases and the heart works harder, all made worse by low potassium!
- Dehydration; little capillary networks shut down to conserve full blood volume.
- No salt or excess use of table salt.
- No greens and a high sugar, high wheat diet.
- Lack of sunlight and vitamin D, so minerals can’t get into the cells.
- Lack of exercise so the minerals cant get out of the cell and into the body.
- Constant stress.
How to achieve balance
- Avoid processed foods that contain excess salt – read the labels.
- Drink adequate water, between meals, little and often and on waking.
- Don’t treat dehydration with medication.
- Avoid table salt, use whole salt, combined or cooked sparingly into foods to enhance flavour.
- Eat more fresh vegetables, herbs and fresh fruit, fish, beans and home made foods.
- Limit salty foods such as bread, cheese, processed meat, pickles, crisps, fast foods, tinned foods, miso and soy sauce and be careful of table salt hidden in our food.
- Exercise regularly, get outside, get plenty of fresh air and boost your vitamin D levels.
Moderation is key. If you are unsure or sensitive to salt, or have a medical condition then speak to your doctor or health practitioner before increasing your salt intake.
Check with your doctor before boosting potassium if you have heart failure or kidney disease, or if you are taking ACE inhibitors or diuretic medication.